As we conducted our extensive research of the market for home health monitors, we were struck by a incongruity. Although many health monitors now connect to Apple iOS devices so Apple device owners can track their data and analyze their progress over time, few health monitors are compatible with Google Android devices.
We asked health-monitor manufacturers what accounts for the holdup, and they gave us a simple answer: the number of mobile devices that work within each platform. At least 12 models of mobile devices exist that use Apple iOS, which is a closed platform that has uniform coding specifications. On the other hand, at least 100 models of mobile devices run on the Android operating system, which is an open-source platform with slightly different coding for each device.
Mobile applications and operating systems work slightly differently from device to device. For instance, an app needs to be coded and designed slightly differently to work with the 4-inch screen and A6 chip of an iPhone 5 than for the 3.5-inch screen and A5 chip of a iPhone 4. The same goes for the hundreds of Android devices, where there’s even more variation between processors, screen sizes and hardware. It doesn’t take long to code and test new apps on the limited range of iOS devices that exist. However, it can take months to assure that an app works correctly on all Android devices, especially when you consider that there are new Android devices coming out all the time. Health-monitor manufacturers tell us that we can expect to see more Android-compatible products trickle out in the next year or two after months of development and testing.
“It’s the big Apple syndrome,” says Keith Erickson of Tanita, which makes body-composition monitors. “We’re not consciously avoiding Android. It just generally follows the Apple apps.”